What does "Scaling" mean - and what problem is it trying to solve?

In the “agile sphere” there are in my view a fair amount of talk about “scaling”.

I am wondering what the means?

What problem is it that the concept of “scaling” is addressing and trying to solve?

There a various approaches out there related to “scaling”. Examples are Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (SAFe) from Scaled Agile, the Nexus Framework for scaling Scrum and Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) to name a few.

Any reflections on this?


The root of this is that “agile” and derivatives are team practices. Once the actors therein realized that teams exist in a larger context - the "organization’ - they want to bring the goodies of agile to the whole. But a team thing is small… so it needs to be made bigger as to cover the larger scope of the organization.

There is a lot of goodwill and positive intent. Unfortunately what works at the team level cannot work “at scale.”

That’s were the TameFlow Approach “wins” hands down, because of the larger perspective that it has from the outset. It is “scale-less” or “scale-free.” So no need to “scale” anything with the TameFlow Approach.

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Can you dig a little deeper on why TameFlow is ‘scale less’, Steve? Is there a critical mass of interest and intent that must take root that then grows outwards naturally?

TameFlow is “scale less” like Science is scale less: we observe reality (no matter at what scale of observation) and identify patterns that we then validate. Those patterns will then allow us to make decisions (strategic, tactical, operational, relational, etc.) that will improve the observed reality we are part of ourselves.

No, there is no minimal or critical mass. Though certain aspects have more effect or impact the larger the “scale” is, in particular when you consider Constraints Management.


An organization can be defined as two or more human beings collaborating to achieve common goals.

Let’s say an organization is comprised of 10 individual human beings. Then probably this could also be considered a team.

If an organization is comprised of e.g. 100 human beings - then many would probably not consider all 100 a team. At least I myself consider teams to be smaller. Maybe the organization is then a team of teams.

As organizations exists at least partially to serve customers and other stakeholders outside the organization then many competences are needed - and sometimes teams and organizations are considered cross functional as “opposed” to functional (siloed e.g. as “line and staff”).

How do you then view multiple cross functional teams collaborating (coordinating and working closely together). Is this “scaling” or something else?

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I love the analogy with science, Steve. But who is the ‘we’ that’s doing the observing? How many people in the team have to be involved for these identified patterns to effect change? Or, how many ‘scientists’ are involved in an organisational experiment?

As Mark says, two or more people make a team. But, at some point, an organisation becomes something greater than a single team. To return to Mark’s initial question: Is there, perhaps, a flawed assumption in the idea of ‘scaling’? Does it mean scaling behaviour? Or scaling results? Does it mean actively extending a concept to more people because the idea won’t scale otherwise? Or simply making an idea available for others to pick up on, when they need it?

“We, the people!”

Everybody. No one excluded.

Yes, I contend that the very idea of “scaling” is flawed. The wrong solution for a non-existing (or badly identified) problem.

Your pattern of ‘one slice at a time’ makes sense to me here, Steve. Isn’t that how TameFlow gets embedded and scales?

One thing I am curious about, though. In Tame Your Workflow, you say that everyone (in this initial slice) must be on board ‘from the CEO to the latest junior hire’ to ensure that the central nervous system (great metaphor) can be rewired.

But, initially, can the ‘CEO’ simply be the director or VP who has authority over that span of control? Or does it really have to be, you know, the CEO?

It seems important to distinguish between those who are “addressed” by some theory or pattern of behavior and the practical groups that behavior is then applied in.
Christianity, for example, has, in theory, a “universal” address. It addresses everyone, regardless of their position. But when humans put Christianity into practice they do in in groups that fall pretty much alone the size ranges laid out by Dunbars numbers.
Companies and corporations are large, complex organizations and they include many sub-groups. They are often arranged (like military organizations) in hierarchies of groups that more or less follow Dunbar’s numbers.
So there can be problems with a set of ideas is designed for one specific set of those groupings and then “scaled” to attempt to apply it to larger or smaller groupings. TameFlow, like Christianity, is a set of ideas and practices that starts by addressing everyone, so its basic ideas do not need to be changed to apply them to different levels and subgroups. However the ways TameFlow is put into practice in a specific context will probably show different patterns of application/communication/work depending on the size of the group and the social composition of the group.
The question reminds me of a quote of the Duke of Wellington’s: “Amateurs approach war as tactics and strategy. Professional’s approach it as logistics.”

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The odds of success will be proportional to the levels of management you involve.

Ideal, get the CEO on board.

If not, get the next highest ranking manager who has P&L responsibility over the folks in the slice.

If you can’t reach anyone with P&L responsibility, you might just as well give up! (Or continue with the Scrum merry go rounds… )

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That certainly makes sense, Steve. But I suppose it’s easier said than done. And there lies the challenge :slight_smile:

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That puts it very clearly. These sound like the “effects”, ie the CEO is on board, etc. What would you suggest are the “causes” that cause the CEO to get on board.

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Nothing more and nothing less than what gets anybody interested in the TameFlow Approach: the Enlightened Self-Interest that provides the reassurance that their needs will be met.

We cater for people’s needs, no matter where they are in the “organizational hierarchy.”

It is that simple. Cater for people’s needs.

Seems circular to me. What is the cause of a CEO taking up TameFlow: enlightened self interest. What is the result of a CEO practicing TameFlow: Enlightened Self Interest. It’s like saying that the reason my car starts when I turn the key is it really wants to take me to the store.

Seems tricky, right?

But it is not circular.

Do you see why?